Words can make the difference… by Milly Johnson
I had a lovely surprise message last week from a taxi driver in London whose cab I’d been in last year. He wanted to thank me because I’d played a part in him upping sticks, quitting the rat race and buying a beautiful auberge in France. Now much as my ego would love to have it that I had a massive contribution to his decision, I don’t think I did. He’d been to see the place which was gorgeous and I think he needed the tiniest hand on his back to nudge him, a mere whisper in his ear to tip him over the edge to the ‘yes’ camp. I sat chatting in the back of his cab, as I love to do with taxi drivers, and rubbish as my menopausal memory is these days, I surprisingly remembered many details of that conversation: that the village had been in a Hollywood film, that the people who were selling it were Dutch, how relatively easy it would be to run, how idyllic it sounded and was he mad even thinking about this no-brainer decision. I told him about the book I’d just written – The Queen of Wishful Thinking – featuring a man who realised we get one crack at this life and, after a heart attack, he packed in his high-powered job and bought the antiques shop he’d always wanted to own. The book’s central message is: if you want something and it is achievable, then why the hell not go for it.
A friend of mine is undergoing treatment for cancer and she’s scared and what she needs most of all is that window of hope left open to her. Her previous oncologist saw her as a patient first and a human last and the language she used reflected that. A few simple word substitutions from her new specialist has steadied her ship: an ‘abnormality’ in her liver addresses that something isn’t quite right, whilst it doesn’t make the worst assumptions. Words can make the difference between someone fighting on and giving up.
Once upon a time the actress Shirley Stelfox gave me a pep talk about following my dreams. That conversation lasted a few minutes at most and yet thirty years plus later, her words still ring in my head. They pulled me forwards. And another woman who told me that my ‘accent was better suited to the textile industry’ pushed me forwards. My point being that words are that important. A mere handful of them can change lives for the better or crush the spirit out of you because they have an energy all of their own. A simple ‘thank you’ can stick a smile on a face for hours/days/weeks. Words are rarely ‘just words’.
So I’ll take the thank you from Paul the taxi-driver because whatever rubbish I spouted was obviously what he needed to hear and I’m delighted for him that he is living out his dream in a beautiful French village and not stuck in traffic with a northern bird yakking on in the back of his cab. He and his wife have invited us over and, do you know what – my other half and I will go and see their little patch of heaven on earth and if you want to – here’s where they are! I feel stupidly proud because I usually leave a cab thinking ‘I talked too much there. Note to self: shut up.’
As Dean Koontz once so wisely wrote… ‘She was fascinated with words. To her, words were things of beauty, each like a magical powder or potion that could be combined with other words to create powerful spells.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Love Milly xx